“ ‘Our Town’ is really a play about memories: Are they real? Are they ghosts? What are they?” said Ian Gallanar, Chesapeake’s founding artistic director and director of the play, which opens Friday. “We’re performing in and around a building that’s . . . the memory of a building.”
Yes, in and around. “Our Town” is Chesapeake’s fourth movable production, one in which each scene occurs in a different place. The audience will walk from room to room, around the grounds of Patapsco, and stand throughout the performance, exposed to the elements (Patapsco is a preserved, stabilized ruin; it has no roof, windows or doors). The building is large enough to accommodate 150 people, the maximum audience size for the two-hour, 15-minute show.
Gallanar knows what people expect to do at the theater: “Sit down in a chair, the lights will go out, you better shut up and enjoy the play.” But that experience interests him less than this traveling technique, one that puts the motion in emotion.
“It’s gimmicky to say it’s 5-D theater,” he said. “But you can smell the actors, you hear the crickets, you hear the sound of gravel under people’s feet. It really is a sensory experience. You create an atmosphere that surrounds people.”
“Our Town” runs Friday to Oct. 30 at Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park, 3655 Church Rd., Ellicott City. Call 410-313-8661 or go to www.chesapeakeshake speare.com.
The horror, the horror
Active Cultures Theatre has mined Maryland legends to bring audiences “Hellspawn,” three one-act plays based on local lore, opening Oct. 13.
“To Hell and Back” tells the story of the alleged demonic possession upon which “The Exorcist” was based. “Rare Medium Well Done,” written by The Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri, focuses on a girl who, having spent years preparing to apply to Brown University, is possessed by the devil on the day of her college admission interview.
“Never Have I Ever,” written by founders Jessica Burgess and Mary Resing, artistic director, was inspired by memories of what had frightened the women at sleepovers. “It’s all about power games and identity and secrets,” Resing said.
The play is named for a game in which participants announce something they’ve never done, and anyone who has done it declares herself by putting down a finger — once all 10 are down, you lose — or, in the college version, you drink.
“I think we all fear loss of control,” Resing said. “We all go through life thinking that if we do everything we’re supposed to do, things will work out as they should. And life doesn’t really work that way. . . . [These plays are] about how, all of a sudden, things can totally go to hell.”